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Cablegate: U.S.-Vietnam Relations Expand to Wildlife Protection And

VZCZCXRO6510
OO RUEHAST RUEHDT RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHTM
DE RUEHHM #1099/01 3650532
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O P 300532Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5258
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY 0103
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3499
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY PRIORITY 5488
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 001099

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, USAID/ANE, EEB/TPP/BTA/ANA, OES/STC, OES/ENRC (SCASWELL AND
HSUMMERS)
INTERIOR FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (KWASHBURN AND KSENHADJI)
JUSTICE FOR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES (JWEBB)
USDOC FOR 4431/MAC/AP/OPB/VLC/HPPHO
USTR FOR BISBEE
TREASURY FOR CHUN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD EAGR EIND SENV SOCI PGOV PREL VM
SUBJECT: U.S.-VIETNAM RELATIONS EXPAND TO WILDLIFE PROTECTION AND
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

REF: A. HANOI 1370 B. HCMC 156 C. HANOI 1402 D. 07 HANOI 1763

HO CHI MIN 00001099 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary. Wildlife trafficking, the fate of Vietnam's
premier national park and sustainable development comprised the
agenda of Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment
and Science (OES) Claudia A. McMurray's November 18-22 visit to
southern Vietnam. Officials responsible for combating wildlife
trafficking in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces told
Assistant Secretary McMurray that a lack of training, corruption
and low public awareness hindered enforcement, and acknowledged
international wildlife NGOs as vital partners in anti-wildlife
trafficking efforts. Cat Tien National Park officials described
the international assistance and public private partnerships
enlisted to control the logging, poaching, and economic
development that threatens the park's unique biodiversity. Lam
Dong provincial officials praised a United States Agency for
International Development (USAID)-supported project that trains
residents of the national park's buffer zone to grow, harvest,
and then work bamboo into furniture and handicrafts for export,
reducing both poverty and illegal exploitation of the park's
resources. In all her meetings, Assistant Secretary McMurray
affirmed the USG's commitment to combat wildlife trafficking and
to strengthen bilateral cooperation to reduce both the demand
and supply of illegal wildlife products. (Assistant Secretary
McMurray's participation in the commencement of the Delta
Research and Global Observation Network (DRAGON) climate change
Institute at Can Tho University on November 20 is reported in
ref A.) End Summary.

Wildlife on the menu instead of in Customs Bureau database
--------------------------------------------- -------------
2. (SBU) In a faded French colonial building on the city's
waterfront, Assistant Secretary McMurray, accompanied by
Ambassador Michael Michalak and Consul General Ken Fairfax told
HCMC Customs Bureau officials that the United States was the
second largest (after China) consumer of illegal wildlife
products and that traffickers who exported such products to the
United States broke both U.S. and Vietnamese laws. The Bureau
chief explained that they lack photos or field guides of
protected wildlife, making seizure of such contraband extremely
difficult for the Bureau's 1900 personnel. Training of line
agents and compilation of an illustrated database of illegally
trade species are top priorities. Wryly commenting on both the
high number of wild game restaurants in the city as well as
their clientele, he noted that government officials had no
problems identifying trafficked wildlife, because "all they had
to do was look down at their plates."

Officials Team up with local NGO to Protect Wildlife
--------------------------------------------- -------
3. (SBU) HCMC Forest Protection Department (FPD) officials,
responsible for area forests and wildlife, described their
limited enforcement powers to Assistant Secretary McMurray and
highlighted their collaboration with local NGO Wildlife at Risk
(WAR) as their most successful wildlife protection effort (ref
B). The NGO tags (with microchips) and monitors HCMC's over 400
privately held bears to limit their exploitation for bile or
other 'bear products', a program the national FPD is taking
nation wide. (Comment: However, ref C describes FPD's recent
reluctance to confiscate illegally held bears in northern
Vietnam.) They likewise noted a need for more training for FPD
rangers and increased public outreach to stem demand for illegal
wildlife products

4. (SBU) Assistant Secretary McMurray agreed on the value of
public private partnerships (PPPs) and described the
U.S.-initiated Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT)
which brings together like-minded governments and NGOs in the
international fight against wildlife trafficking. She also
described a recent OES-sponsored anti-wildlife trafficking
public service announcement featuring film celebrity Harrison
Ford, which she offered to share with HCMC officials.

A Haven of Biodiversity at Risk
-------------------------------------
5. (SBU) Only four hours by car, but a world away from the

HO CHI MIN 00001099 002.2 OF 003


polluted congestion of HCMC, Cat Tien National Park (NP) is home
to some of Vietnam's rarest wildlife, including Siamese
crocodiles and the world's last five Vietnamese rhinos. But
with Vietnam's inflation driving up prices by 30 percent over
last year, and a poached sambar deer fetching over $100 in wild
game markets, officials described a park under pressure from
impoverished residents in surrounding communities. The park's
120 FPD rangers combat illegal logging, grazing, and poaching,
in the process destroying three to four thousand illegal
wildlife traps and snares in a typical month. Ironically,
provincial economic development projects intended to facilitate
mainstream employment often locate roads, dams and power lines
in and around the park in ways that harm biodiversity by
bisecting and flooding wildlife habitat and altering wetland
hydrology. While an improved website and better facilities
attract increasing numbers of foreign tourists to the park,
outreach efforts to local schoolchildren, vital to the park's
long term future, falter for lack of funds.

6. (SBU) Recently returned from a U.S. Forest Service Protected
Area Management Seminar at Yellowstone National Park, Park
Director Tran Van Thanh told the Assistant Secretary he is
leveraging bureaucratic reforms, international assistance, and
the expertise of local and international NGOs and wildlife
researchers to turn the tide. Recent GVN reforms that placed
Cat Tien NP (and five more of Vietnam's 27 national parks)
directly under FPD control have reduced poaching, and the
prestige of potential UNESCO World Heritage Status for the park
has increased cooperation from local authorities. Earlier as
well as ongoing projects funded by the Netherlands and French
governments, the World Bank, USAID and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service have reduced poaching, reforested logged areas,
and improved habitat for endangered rhinos and wild buffalo.

Public-Private Partnerships Crucial to Park's Survival
--------------------------------------------- ---------
7. (SBU) Major international environmental organizations such as
the World Wildlife Fund have supported rhino and primate
projects in the park, while local and regional NGOs work in the
park full-time. WAR has established a bear sanctuary near park
headquarters and the Endangered Asian Species Trust runs a
gibbon rehabilitation center where primates rescued from the
animal trade are prepared for release back into the wild. Both
groups plan educational outreach programs at their facilities,
Assistant Secretary McMurray heard from local officials. The
Director of the gibbon center noted that since they began
collaborating, the FPD have become more assertive in their
anti-wildlife trafficking efforts, to the point where they now
"confiscate more trafficked primates than we can accept". The
park also hosts international researchers and feeds their
findings back into resource management. Currently, a University
of Colorado Fulbright researcher studying endangered primates
advises both NGOs and park management on primate preservation
efforts. So far these various efforts are paying off, and the
park is holding its own: while most of Vietnam's national parks
suffer from 'silent forest syndrome' (ref D), the Assistant
Secretary spotted various species of deer, wild boar and civet
cat on a night time jeep safari.

Sustainable Development Reduces Poverty and Poaching
--------------------------------------------- -------
8. (SBU) In poverty-stricken Lam Dong province adjacent to Cat
Tien National Park, Assistant Secretary McMurray toured the Hong
Nhung bamboo furniture and handicrafts factory, one of only two
larger-scale manufacturing facilities in the 45,000 person Da
Teh District. Here 45 workers trained by the U.S. NGO Winrock
International, many of them former poachers according to the
factory's owner, fashioned raw bamboo into vases, dishes, and
furniture for export, including to the U.S. retailer Target.
Prior to training the workers, the USAID-supported project
determined the commercial feasibility of bamboo handicrafts
export, and then provided seed, fertilizer and training to over
2,000 local residents to grow bamboo, lemon grass and high-value
hardwoods. The Da Teh District People's Committee Chairman was
an enthusiastic convert to sustainable development, noting that

HO CHI MIN 00001099 003.2 OF 003


the annual income of $120 per hectare of lemon grass or the $90
monthly wage paid by the bamboo manufacturer were a lifeline out
of poverty for the District's forest-dwelling communities.

Comment:
-------
9. (SBU) A/S McMurray's agenda of wildlife protection and
sustainable development illustrates the continuing evolution of
U.S.-Vietnam relations from political and commercial to
environmental, law enforcement and quality of life issues. The
enthusiasm of Da Teh district officials for environmentally
sustainable development indicates that well-conceived,
economically viable 'green' projects are feasible even in
remote, economically-depressed areas not known for progressive
attitudes. Continued targeted assistance in wildlife protection
and sustainable development could have great impact. Providing
more working level officials South East Asian Nations Wildlife
Enforcement Network training would strengthen rule of law and
increase regional cooperation. Similarly, public outreach
grants to the demonstrably capable administration of Cat Tien NP
would build a local constituency for the park's long-term
survival. End Comment.

10. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

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